Tea and Coffee Consumption and MRSA Nasal Carriage

Eric M. Matheson, MD, MS; Arch G. Mainous III, PhD; Charles J. Everett, PhD; Dana E. King, MD, MS


Ann Fam Med. 2011;9(4):299-304. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Purpose Hot tea and coffee have been found to have antimicrobial properties. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the consumption of tea, coffee, or both is associated with less frequent nasal carriage of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Methods We performed a secondary analysis of data from the 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to investigate the relationship between the consumption of coffee, hot tea, cold tea, and soft drinks, and MRSA nasal carriage among the noninstitutionalized population of the United States.
Results An estimated 2.5 million persons (1.4% of the population) were MRSA nasal carriers. In an adjusted logistic regression analysis controlling for age, race, sex, poverty-income ratio, current health status, hospitalization in the past 12 months, and use of antibiotics in the past month, individuals who reported consuming hot tea were one-half as likely to have MRSA nasal carriage relative to individuals who drank no hot tea (odds ratio = 0.47; 95% confidence interval, 0.31–0.71). Similarly, individuals who reported consuming coffee had about a one-half reduction in the risk of MRSA nasal carriage relative to individuals who drank no coffee (odds ratio = 0.47; 95% confidence interval, 0.24–0.93).
Conclusions Consumption of hot tea or coffee is associated with a lower likelihood of MRSA nasal carriage. Our findings raise the possibility of a promising new method to decrease MRSA nasal carriage that is safe, inexpensive, and easily accessible.


Infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major source of morbidity and mortality in the United States. In 2005, more than 278,000 Americans were hospitalized for MRSA-related infections, and there were more than 6,500 MRSA-related deaths.[1] Studies have suggested that nasal carriage of MRSA may significantly increase the risk of a MRSA infection, although this finding has not been universal.[2–4]

In an effort to both prevent and treat MRSA, researchers have examined the antimicrobial effects of several commonly consumed plants and plant extracts.[5–7] Two of the most promising and ubiquitous are tea and coffee.[8–10] Tea has been found to have antimicrobial activity against several types of pathogenic bacteria, including Vibrio cholerae, Escherichia coli, Shigella, Salmonella, and S aureus.[11–13] Like tea, coffee appears to have antimicrobial properties against Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and S aureus.[10,14] Both in vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated that tea or tea-based extracts have antimicrobial properties when applied topically.[9,15] What remains unclear is whether tea and coffee have systemic antimicrobial activity when consumed orally as beverages.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between oral consumption of tea and coffee, and MRSA nasal carriage in a nationally representative sample of Americans.